Cold Pursuit hides humor inside its chilling plot


I entered the Celebration Cinema North theater last Saturday night with my ticket in hand, expecting to walk into a movie full of blood, gore, and murder. This preconceived idea of mine can be attributed to the trailer I had watched a mere two hours earlier, which depicted such images. As the film progressed, however, it became apparent that I had been quite mistaken.

“Cold Pursuit,” a 2019 film directed by Hans Petter Moland, contained a clever amount of wit and humor within its walls of violence. Upon later research, I discovered that the movie is officially classified as a thriller and a dark comedy, which certainly remains accurate.

The plot is centered around a character named Nels Coxman (played by Liam Neeson) who lives a quiet, simple life as a snow plow driver. Once his son, Kyle (played by Michael Richardson) is killed in a drug dealing scandal, however, he finds himself seeking revenge. Feelings of rage begin to build inside of him, and he sets out on a mission to track down and kill the people who seem to be connected to the death of his son.

Ultimately, the rift between the Native American tribes and a white leader nicknamed “Viking” (portrayed by Tom Bateman) is held responsible for Kyle’s death. This divide between two seemingly different groups of people adds an interesting component of humor and comradery to an otherwise melancholic plot.

Throughout the course of “Cold Pursuit,” Nels adds to his body count as he tracks down the members of the two drug groups one-by-one. This, though, seems to add an extra layer of complexity to the movie. Intricate relationships between characters in the movie such as Viking and his wife, Nels and his wife, and the relationship Viking has with his son, portray the contrasts between familial lives in a much more absorbent way than the norm.

For example, prior to his son’s death, Nels had a quite normal bond with his son. He read to him, protected him, and ultimately watched him grow up. Viking, on the other hand, seems to show love towards his son, but it comes out in controlling and almost psychotic ways. The disparity between these two situations is combined near the end of the film; however, the ways in which expressions of love can differ remains a compelling aspect of “Cold Pursuit.”

Yet another powerful aspect of the movie is its look into the psychology of the need to avenge someone close to you. Up until his son’s death, Nels was not a violent or angry person. The differing effects that tragedy had on him and the people around him delves into the well-known idea that not everyone processes grief in the same way. Seeing this depicted on a big screen, though, can be another insightful way to look at why we do the things we do.

Contrary to the feelings evoked by the murderous and sorrowful characteristics of the movie, there is somewhat out-of-place humor that comes along with it, which only makes the jokes funnier. Sly comedy seems to be slid in at the most random times during the film where it seems almost inappropriate, but the nature in which the humor is executed makes it acceptably hilarious for viewers.

“Cold Pursuit” also features a snowy climate and was filmed in Alberta, Canada. This constitutes the breathtaking mountainous scenery that litters the background and the snowy, desolate terrain that Nels snow plows each day. Characters like Viking live in extravagant houses made of glass, while Nels lives in a cabin-like home in the middle of what seems like nowhere.  

The many contrasts of “Cold Pursuit” make up only a mere part of what makes it so great. This film is packed full of complex characters, engrossing relationships, beautiful scenery, and a plot filled with surprises.

This, combined with the wry humor, makes a movie about murder pleasant on the eyes and the ears.